Sunday 16th July 2017 – Sydney to Shanghai
I boarded the 10.20am flight in Sydney which got to Shanghai 10 hours later. Here is a map of the flight journey:
The entire journey was pretty smooth. It was great to go above the beautiful North-East coastline of Australia and see the sunset from the plane. I saw a beautiful horse in the clouds! Then we landed in Shanghai. Here are some photos.
I landed in Shanghai at 7.40pm local time where the weather was really hot and humid, around 30-38 degrees and I would say 70% humidity. I figured out how to get on line 2 then line 10 as advised by Jason from the airbnb place I had booked and got out at Yunan Garden station where there was a beautiful view of the skyline of the Bund. We chatted with Jason, he ordered some dumplings for me and I learnt how to write my name in Chinese. I went to bed around 11.30pm local time.
Monday 17th July 2017 – Shanghai to Irkutsk
I walked around Shanghai for 3 short hours, exploring by foot. It was crazily hot and humid and quite exhausting! There were 2 things I found particularly interesting. The first one was that the shared bicycle system was now developed there with QR codes to scan which meant bikes could be left anywhere. The second was a pole just before the crossing was shouting at you when you dared start crossing when it was still red. It was amusing to in front of it and be shouted at by a pole!
I left around 11.30am and headed to the airport by line 10, line 2 and then the Maglev, which is the awesome Magnetic Levitation train built in 2004 which maximum speed ever recorded is 603km/h. It was built in 2004 and as the Pudong area has alluvial soil conditions, it required columns of concrete to be built every 25 metres as deep as 70 meters deep to ensure that the guideway would meet the stability and precision required. Although there has been more than 10 years of research and development so far of this technology, maglev transport systems are in operation in only three countries : Japan, South Korea and China.
It is sadly loosing money since its opening as the cost of energy is really high and it is used at 20% of its capacity only. The sad thing is that with a bit more marketing on the official metro line 2 to encourage people to take the Maglev to go or come back from the airport as an alternative to the very long line 2 ride and as a one-off magic carpet for children to experiment and learn about science for example, there is literally nothing specific encouraging you to stop and once you are out of line 2, there is no signage to know how to get to the Maglev. I was lucky to ask to a Chinese woman who was off to it, otherwise I would have got lost at the station. It is sad as just the idea of creating a train using magnetic levitation is incredible. The fact that humans achieved building it concretely and making it possible for people to take it is great. It is one example of how far human inventions can go, and it has a very friendly face!! Within 7 minutes we were at the airport. The highest speed I saw was 301km/h but then I learnt on wikipedia that if I had taken it earlier, I could have experienced a high speed of 431km/h.
I got to the airport around 12.40pm and realised something was wrong when I saw my 3.10pm plane from Shanghai to Irkutsk with Jindanao Airlines was not on the Departure Board.
I went to their counter and they told me there had been a flight schedule change and the plane had been moved to 12.30pm that day but worse, that the next plane to Irkutsk with them would only be on the 21st July! I complained that I had not been informed. I called BestJet from Jindanao Airlines counter. Bestjet was the website of which I had bought both plane tickets from Sydney to Shanghai and Shanghai to Irkutsk. I asked them why they had not notified me by email. They said they had sent me a notification the day before at 10.50am. I said that I had departed Sydney at 10.20am and that as gmail was banned in China, I could not receive this notification. I asked them to rebook me on another plane with another airline but they said they could not do that. Congratulations, BestJet! What an awesome customer service you have! I will make sure that I NEVER EVER book again with you!! I hanged up and asked Jindanao Airlines to help me find a flight going to Irkutsk even if it meant going first to Kuala Lumpur or Singapour or anywhere really. They were very helpful and one guy called around and found that I could get a flight to Beijing at 4.40pm which would get there at 7pm and then get on the 10.45pm plane landing in Irkutsk at 00.50am so I said yes, ok. I was tempted to call BestJet again to ask them to pay for it but there was not much time left so I paid for these new tickets 3249 yuans which is 607 Australian dollars.
I decided I would definitely send all receipts to BestJet and ask them to reimburse me. Besides that, Jindanao Airlines provided me with a refund voucher for the flight I had missed. Jindanao Airlines staff was amazingly helpful and I wish I could have flown with them. As for BestJet..never ever again!
After this short misadventure, the rest of the journey was quite smooth, I registered my baggage after it beeped twice because of some batteries I had in it, then I went to the gate and I was soon on the flight to Beijing.
Here was the flight journey from Shanghai to Beijing.
I transferred to the wrong terminal of course and had to walk 15 minutes to the right one, to the terminal 2.
On my way, I bumped into the free water dispenser which is cute which its small glasses in shape of cones.
Then I was relieved to see that the plane Beijing to Irkutsk was real. In the queue, I chatted with a really cool Russian girl, Katja. She was from Irkutsk but living in a small village in China and teaching English there. What was funny was that she had also missed her originally planned plane to Irkutsk because her first flight had been delayed so when she arrived, the second plane had already departed.
Here we were, boarding a plane…to Irkutsk! Yeah!
We sat in different seats in the plane and I spent most of my flight sleeping. When we landed in Irkutsk, there was a dog walking on the belt on all luggages and sniffing them to check if there was any drug in them.
We chatted more with Katja and her parents had come to pick her us and they offered me to drop me at the hostel with the taxi they were taking as it was on their way anyway. Her dad spoke a bit of English and kept cracking jokes all the way to the hostel. Who said Russians were not funny?!! I finally got there around 2am, said good-bye to Katja and her parents and with as little noise as possible, got to my bed in the 6-bed dorm room where there were only 2 other girls and I felt asleep pretty fast.
Tomorrow, let’s explore Irkutsk and check out Russia for a month!